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How You Doin'? Houston Dynamo

Derek Stowers of Dynamo Theory stops by for a chat prior to Sunday's match in Toronto against Houston

Remember Me? Former TFC midfielder Nathan Sturgis celebrates his goal against LA earlier this season
Remember Me? Former TFC midfielder Nathan Sturgis celebrates his goal against LA earlier this season
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing Waking the Red's build in the eighth game of the 2015 season, finally the home opener, Derek Stowers of SB Nation's Houston Dynamo site, Dynamo Theory, stops by to shed some light on the opponent from their perspective.

Question the First:
Owen Coyle was a wise, yet brave hire, given the success, or lack thereof, that foreign coaches have found in MLS. One of the more intriguing storylines to follow for the rest of the season will be how a British bred manager adapts to the league and utilizes the various Latin talents at his disposal. How is he adjusting to the North American game so far and do the fans in Houston have the necessary patience given the steep learning curve?

One of the great moves by Owen Coyle early into his hire was his decision to keep Dominic Kinnear’s Assistant Coach Wade Barrett who has helped him learn the players, the rules, and all the nuances of MLS. Dynamo President Chris Canetti has said that the team is ready to compete this season which implies that we aren’t in rebuild mode. I’d say early into the season we’ve seen mixed success and have maybe let a few results go, but the last few games have tried the patience of some fans. I think the biggest challenge for Coyle is learning how to utilize players that are used to one system and get them to play in his. I think that we have a great Front Office that will support Coyle and there’s no reason to believe that he won’t – at the very least, find some success in the league. For Dynamo fans that means at least making the playoffs which should be a good measure of how well Coyle has adapted to the league.

Question the Second:
Goal production has been an issue this season for Houston, scoring just eleven through ten matches so far. Giles Barnes provides nearly half of those with five; amongst the others, only Rico Clark has more than a single strike to his name. Where is the secondary scoring going to come from should Barnes not continue his fine form? And what does this season hold for the likes of Alexander Lopez, Leonel Miranda, and Oscar Boniek Garcia, who have either failed to find their footing or been in slumps of late?

As Coyle has looked to establish himself early and not let too many results go, he’s adopted a largely defensive 4-5-1 formation that has utilized 3 defensive midfielders which makes producing goals more difficult than more balanced formations. As Coyle attempted to move into a 4-4-2 we saw back-to-back games where we gave up 8 goals total. I wouldn’t place blame on the formation for those goals/games, but it’s resulted in a reaction to shift back to the 4-5-1 which once again stagnated our offense. Barnes is going to score plenty more, but he’ll need supporting runs from the midfield and players to come in like Clark, Davis, and Boniek and threaten goal. If we’re committing to a defensive 4-5-1, counter attacks and set pieces take on significantly more importance and players will need to make their supporting runs much quicker than usual in order to help the lonely forward up top, Giles Barnes.

Question the Third:
What is going on with the Houston back-line? Quotes aplenty circulated indicating how proud they were of their fine defensive performances, only to concede ten goals in the four matches since? Does it need a shake-up or is this only a momentary lapse?

Taking into account what I said above about the formation change, it’s best to look at some of those games individually. Against Sporting Kansas City, an unwarranted penalty kick (the red card for the play was rescinded) provided SKC with a goal and a man advantage. Furthermore the stoppage time accumulated because of the incident provided another opportunity to score. Against FC Dallas, Sarkodie struggled against the surging Fabian Castillo, but they shot the ball incredibly well – I believe it was 4 goals on 6 shots total. So as much as it pains me to say, Dallas really made the most of their few opportunities.

I don’t believe the back line really needs a shakeup. Maybe swap Jermaine Taylor out for David Horst when playing against teams that possess a lot of attacking aerial prowess. Overall, the team needs to focus on communicating to eliminate forced errors and allowing soft goals like Giles Barnes’s poor back pass against SKC and the better marking on the goal against San Jose.

Barbed Question:
A British manager. failed international transfers, elder domestic internationals being given gracious contracts, conceding goals deep into stoppage-time (Feilhaber in the 95th minute), relying on goalkeeping performances to save results, then having the goalkeeper give away matches that should otherwise have been won, and Nathan Sturgis; is Houston trying to follow the Toronto FC model of 'how to succeed in MLS' or what?

We can’t give you all of our keys to success, but I’ll say that we’ve become very good at giving up goals early which allows our players to rally from behind. On Nathan Sturgis: He’s been the man! Dark horse team MVP candidate caliber good and is in many statistical categories outplaying fellow central midfielders Ricardo Clark and Luis Garrido. Nobody saw his level of play coming (until it gets scouted and he gets shut down).

Many thanks to Derek for spending some time with Waking the Red – he can be followed on Twitter @dStowers410 – and be sure to check out all the latest Houston news over at Dynamo Theory.

Waking the Red's answers to their questions can be found here